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Renovated Alderman Library stirs wonder for first-time visitors

The reopening of the University’s main library was a success, and students have arrived in droves to experience it for themselves

<p>Students, faculty and Charlottesville residents alike can now enjoy the sparkling new building, the culmination of a three-year long renovation.</p>

Students, faculty and Charlottesville residents alike can now enjoy the sparkling new building, the culmination of a three-year long renovation.

At last — Alderman Library is open. The library has garnered a positive response to its Jan. 8 unveiling, praised for its generous seating space and reading rooms bathed in natural light. As students flock to its steps in the early days of the spring semester, Alderman promises to be an unparalleled study spot that will be beloved for years to come.

Students, faculty and Charlottesville residents alike can now enjoy the sparkling new building, the culmination of a three-year long renovation. The library offers upgraded amenities, refurbished furniture and plenty of study resources. Its proximity to the Corner and Central Grounds makes it accessible from many parts of the University, and a wide range of hours accommodates both early risers and night owls.

The library’s vastness commands immediate attention. Fourth-year Engineering student Morgan Small noted that, compared to Clemons Library and Charles L. Brown Science and Engineering Library, Alderman’s architecture lends the building an airy feel.

“I think Alderman is absolutely beautiful,” Small said. “It's very open and spacious … [and] a lot less cramped than Clemons or Brown.”

First-year College student Brianna Whitaker echoed this sentiment, describing how the library is more comfortable than other study spaces around Grounds.

“The ceilings are higher, and there's more space to just move around,” Whitaker said. “Places like Clemons and [Brown] kind of have a claustrophobic feel to [them]. [Alderman] is a lot more approachable.”

Many students had anticipated the reopening of the new library, but none more so than those in the University’s graduating class. Most fourth-year students had never set foot inside Alderman until last week. Fourth-year Commerce student Ishyan Veluppillai remarked that Alderman had been mentioned in his conversations for years.

“Older University students who've graduated always shared a lot of stories about Alderman,” Veluppillai said. “So I was looking forward to finally stepping in it.”

Small also reflected on the timing of the library’s reopening. For her, exploring the new library redeemed the troubles of her early college years, which were upended by COVID-19 restrictions and online classes.

“So much of my college experience [was] off-kilter because of COVID,” Small said. “My entire first year was eaten by the pandemic … so it's really fun to be in this new space … It’s been a mythical figure until now.”

Five floors of hidden nooks might liken Alderman to the Greeks’ Labyrinth, but the library is hardly mythical now. Patrons are welcome to browse the library’s trove of books and archives, which is expected to fill gradually within the first few months of 2024. Veluppillai looks forward to seeing what collections will fill the empty bookcases.   

“I'm curious to see what [the University] will do with those spaces and how the complete structure will come about,” Veluppillai said.

For now, students cite one another as the primary forces that shape the character of Alderman. From establishing the ‘talking floors’ to finding favorite study spots, Small anticipates that students will fall into patterns as they frequent the library.

“I think that students will fill each space in a unique way, and this is something that will naturally occur over time,” Small said. “[Alderman] seems like it's meant to be form-fitting to whoever is studying here.”

So far, students have had few complaints about the space. For Small, even the prospect of working elbow-to-elbow with someone is a delight rather than a nuisance.

“I don't think that overpopulation is really a problem, but more of a testament to Alderman being such a great space,” Small said.

Whitaker also commented that despite the flurry of visitors, the library’s pleasant atmosphere allows students to remain comfortable for long periods at a time.

“I wanted [Alderman] to be a space in which it would be easy for me to just come and study, and it was,” Whitaker said. “Even with the crowd.”

The outpour of positive comments about Alderman highlights the renovation’s success. From students settling into the University to those preparing to graduate, patrons are inspired and excited by the new space. Veluppillai and thousands of others now take full advantage of what Alderman has to offer.

“I think a lot of students are going to really benefit from this library,” Veluppillai said. “It’s the new place to be on Grounds.”

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